Magazine article HRMagazine

10 Classic Interview Questions to Ask.: And the Responses You Want to Hear

Magazine article HRMagazine

10 Classic Interview Questions to Ask.: And the Responses You Want to Hear

Article excerpt

In a tight job market, where a day's delay can mean the difference between hiring a great candidate and missing out, it can be tempting to pursue applicants primarily because they look promising on paper.

In fact, harried recruiters admit that they often cut their part of the interview process short to move potential employees along faster to frustrated hiring managers. Trying to fill positions that may have remained open for many months, managers then whiz through interviews, allowing those with strong resumes who can talk a good game to step into the empty seats. Unfortunately, such haste often leads to costly hiring mistakes when it becomes clear that the new employees lack critical skills or are a poor fit. >

There is a better way. "When they are doing their jobs effectively, interviewers know that the best way to coax detailed responses is to ask behavioral questions," says Paul Falcone, an author and vice president of human resources at the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills, Calif. "For example, if you ask 'What do you like least about your current job?' and the individual answers 'Having to fire people,' then the interviewer can open up that can of worms by discussing the last time that happened, the circumstances and results."

Conversely, relying solely on a handful of superficial questions without digging deeper does a disservice to all involved, Falcone says.

A proven approach to uncovering how people have performed in the past and what they really think about the available opportunity is to make three assessments during interviews:

* Recognize candidates who are great interviewees but not much more.

* Gauge which person will be the best fit based on experience and temperament.

* Identify which individual really wants the job and can excel in it.

"One of the typical mistakes made by smart job candidates is to think they can just 'wing it' because they're smart, and they'll get away with it if interviewers let them," says Wendy Enelow, an executive resume writer and author in Coleman Falls, Va. "The truth is that nothing beats preparation. Truly committed candidates will rehearse answering tricky career-related questions so that they can respond to them confidently, but it usually takes a series of good questions over time to separate people who interview well from those who will fill the position best."

To that end, here are 10 classic questions that interviewers should be ready to ask each job candidate, regardless of the position they're trying to fill, as well as tips on how to interpret the answers and follow up effectively.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Many interviewers start this way not only to gather information but also as a way of assessing each candidate's poise, delivery style and communication ability.

"If the candidate launches into a mini-speech about his or her childhood, schooling, hobbies, early career, and personal likes and dislikes, it only took you one query to realize you probably don't have a strong fit," Falcone says. "A meandering answer that takes him or her down rabbit holes raises a legitimate concern that the individual may have a difficult time compartmentalizing responses."

To be sure, not staying on script could be fine if the person only digresses for 30 seconds. "But it becomes super problematic if that side story goes on for two or three minutes," Falcone says. "The recruiter wants to get to know the real person but at the same time keep the conversation relevant and on point as far as the individual's career experiences and qualifications."

2. Why did you leave your previous employer (or why do you want to leave your present job)?

Look for honesty and transparency in the answer. Many talented employees lose their jobs in layoffs, so suppress any desire to stigmatize those who were part of a downsizing. However, if the individual offers a vague reference to differing opinions or the arrival of a new boss, dig deeper for possible performance issues that can be verified through reference checking. …

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